Name: Ricardo Martinez Garcia
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army
Unit: 48th Aviation Company, 11th Aviation Group
Date of Birth: 15 September 1951 (Kingsville TX)
Home City of Record: Driscoll TX
Date of Loss: 19 March 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163940N 1062920E (XD585428)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1C
Refno: 1730

Other Personnel In Incident: Paul Langenour (rescued); Jon M. Sparks,
Frederick L. Cristman (both missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 from one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2020.


SYNOPSIS: Lam Son 719 was a large-scale offensive against enemy
communications lines which was conducted in that part of Laos adjacent to
the two northern provinces of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese would
provide and command ground forces, while U.S. forces would furnish airlift
and supporting fire.

Phase I, renamed Operation Dewey Canyon II, involved an armored attack by
the U.S. from Vandegrift base camp toward Khe Sanh, while the ARVN moved
into position for the attack across the Laotian border. Phase II began with
an ARVN helicopter assault and armored brigade thrust along Route 9 into
Laos. ARVN ground troops were transported by American helicopters, while
U.S. Air Force provided cover strikes around the landing zones.

During one of these maneuvers, CW2 Frederick L. Cristman was flying a UH1C
helicopter (serial #65-9489) with a crew of three - SP4 Paul A. Langenour,
door gunner, WO1 Jon M. Sparks, co-pilot, and SP5 Ricardo M. Garcia, crew
chief - covering a downed U.S. helicopter during a rescue effort. Cristman's
aircraft flew as the trail ship in a flight of two UH1s on the armed escort

The landing zone (LZ) was under fire, and the pilot of the downed craft was
a buddy of Fred's. He worked the area with his minigun while another
helicopter successfully extracted the pilot.

Cristman and his crew continued to work the hot LZ while other helicopters
came in. His gunship was hit by enemy gunfire. Cristman radioed in to the
flight leader that his transmission oil pressure caution light was on, and
that he was making an emergency landing on the LZ. This was verified by the
lead aircraft, who made several passes over the downed helicopter.
Cristman's aircraft crashed into the ARVN perimeter, and was hit on the roof
by a mortar round just as the crew jumped out. Cristman, his copilot and the
crew chief were thrown to the ground, while the door gunner, SP4 Langenour,
was able to exit the aircraft and join a nearby ARVN unit which returned to
a U.S. military controlled area. The others remained with the chopper,
although this was not immediately apparent from the air. The flight leader's
aircraft was also battle-damaged, and he had to leave the area.

Another helicopter arrived, and although enemy ground fire was received,
made it into the landing zone. Intense enemy fire necessitated a hasty
departure, and only two Vietnamese troops were picked up. During the initial
rescue attempt by the rescue helicopter, no American crewmen were seen on
the downed aircraft, and no radio contact was established.

SP Langenour later stated that after landing, the aircraft received numerous
rounds of mortar fire and he departed the area. He last saw all the other
crew members alive. Due to enemy activity in the area, no ground search of
the site was conducted.

Proof of the deaths of Cristman, Sparks and Garcia was never found. No
remains came home; none was released from prison camp. They were not blown
up, nor did they sink to the bottom of the ocean. Someone knows what
happened to them.

Were it not for thousands of reports relating to Americans still held
captive in Southeast Asia today, the families of the UH1C helicopter crew
might be able to believe their men died with their aircraft. But until proof
exists that they died, or they are brought home alive, they will wonder and

How long must they wait before we bring our men home?




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On March 19, 1971, a UH-1C Iroquois (tail number 65-9489) with a crew of four served as the tail ship in a flight of two helicopters on an armed escort mission over Savannakhet Province, Laos. During its second pass over the pick-up zone, the Iroquois was hit by enemy ground fire. The pilot radioed the flight leader that he was making an emergency landing. The flight leader's helicopter was then also hit and forced to leave the area. A search and rescue helicopter was dispatched to the pick-up zone and rescued two South Vietnamese soldiers, but was forced to leave the area due to enemy fire before it could recover any Americans. The downed Iroquois tail gunner survived to return to U.S. custody; he reported that he left the helicopter under heavy fire, joined a unit of South Vietnamese soldiers and eventually made it back to friendly positions. When he left the Iroquois, the other three crew members were alive but taking heavy fire. Enemy presence prevented any further rescue attempts, and the remaining three crew men were not recovered.

Specialist Five Ricardo Martinez Garcia, who joined the U.S. Army from Texas, served with the 48th Assault Helicopter Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade. He was the crew chief aboard the Iroquois when it was forced down in the pick-up zone on March 19, 1971, and his fate is unknown. His remains were not recovered. Subsequent to the incident, the Army posthumously promoted SP5 Garcia to the rank of Sergeant First Class (SFC). Today, Sergeant First Class Garcia is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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